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Nicomachean Ethics   


reach conclusions that are no better. In the same spirit, therefore,
should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an
educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far
as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish
to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a
rhetorician scientific proofs.
Now each man judges well the things he knows, and of these he is a
good judge. And so the man who has been educated in a subject is a
good judge of that subject, and the man who has received an all-round
education is a good judge in general. Hence a young man is not a
proper hearer of lectures on political science; for he is
inexperienced in the actions that occur in life, but its discussions
start from these and are about these; and, further, since he tends to
follow his passions, his study will be vain and unprofitable, because
the end aimed at is not knowledge but action. And it makes no
difference whether he is young in years or youthful in character; the
defect does not depend on time, but on his living, and pursuing each
successive object, as passion directs. For to such persons, as to the
incontinent, knowledge brings no profit; but to those who desire and
act in accordance with a rational principle knowledge about such
matters will be of great benefit.
These remarks about the student, the sort of treatment to be expected,
and the purpose of the inquiry, may be taken as our preface.
4
Let us resume our inquiry and state, in view of the fact that all
knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good, what it is that we say
political science aims at and what is the highest of all goods
achievable by action. Verbally there is very general agreement; for
both the general run of men and people of superior refinement say that
it is happiness, and identify living well and doing well with being
happy; but with regard to what happiness is they differ, and the many
do not give the same account as the wise. For the former think it is
some plain and obvious thing, like pleasure, wealth, or honour; they
differ, however, from one another- and often even the same man
identifies it with different things, with health when he is ill, with
wealth when he is poor; but, conscious of their ignorance, they admire
those who proclaim some great ideal that is above their comprehension.
Now some thought that apart from these many goods there is another
which is self-subsistent and causes the goodness of all these as well.
To examine all the opinions that have been held were perhaps somewhat
fruitless; enough to examine those that are most prevalent or that
seem to be arguable.
Let us not fail to notice, however, that there is a difference between
arguments from and those to the first principles. For Plato, too, was
right in raising this question and asking, as he used to do, 'are we
on the way from or to the first principles?' There is a difference, as
there is in a race-course between the course from the judges to the
turning-point and the way back. For, while we must begin with what is
known, things are objects of knowledge in two senses- some to us, some
without qualification. Presumably, then, we must begin with things
known to us. Hence any one who is to listen intelligently to lectures
about what is noble and just, and generally, about the subjects of
political science must have been brought up in good habits. For the
fact is the starting-point, and if this is sufficiently plain to him,
he will not at the start need the reason as well; and the man who has
been well brought up has or can easily get startingpoints. And as for
him who neither has nor can get them, let him hear the words of
Hesiod:
Far best is he who knows all things himself;
Good, he that hearkens when men counsel right;
But he who neither knows, nor lays to heart
Another's wisdom, is a useless wight.
5
Let us, however, resume our discussion from the point at which we

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